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Stages on the Path of Realization

Hazrat Inayat Khan

Part Three

All that man considers beautiful, precious and good, is not necessarily in the thing or the being; it is in his ideal; the thing or being causes him to create the beauty, value and goodness in his own mind. Man believes in God by making Him an ideal of his worship, so that he can commune with someone whom he can look up to; in whom he can lay his absolute trust, believing Him to be above the unreliable world; on whose mercy he can depend, seeing selfishness all round him. It is this ideal when made of a stone, and placed in a shrine, which is called an idol of God; and when the same ideal is raised to the higher plane and placed in the shrine of the heart, it becomes the ideal of God with whom the believer communes and in whose vision he lives most happily, as happily as could be, in the company of the sovereign of the whole universe.

The successful travellers on the path of love are those whose love is so beautiful that it provides all the beauty that their ideal lacks. The lover by doing this in time rises above the changeable and limited beauty of the beloved, but begins to see into the beloved's inner being; in other words, the exterior of the beloved was only a means of drawing the love out of the heart of the lover, but the love led him from the external to the innermost being of the ideal of his love. When in the ideal the lover has realized the unlimited and perfect Being, whether he loves man or God, he is in fact in either case a blissful lover.

In this the journey through the path of idealism is ended and a journey through the divine ideal is begun, for the God-ideal is necessary for the attainment of life's perfection. Man then seeks for a perfect object of love, idealizing God, the whole Being, the Infinite, who is above all the world's lights and shades, good and ill, who is pure from all limitations, births or deaths, unchangeable, inseparable from us, all-pervading, present always before the vision of his lover.

The God-ideal was taught to man gradually. There was a time when a certain rock was recognized as God. People at one period considered certain plants as sacred; at another, certain animals and birds. For instance, the cow and the eagle were considered as sacred creatures. Many worshipped the primal elements in nature, such as earth, water, fire, and air. People worshipped the spirits of mountains, hills, trees, plants, birds, and animals, until the God-ideal was raised to the Absolute.

In reality the first lesson about the presence of God is, as a philosopher says, 'If you have no god, make one for yourself.' How true it is that before one comes to the real conception of God, the first thing is to build Him in one's heart. The word God has the same origin as the word good, but its original in the old Hebrew means 'ideal'.

What is ideal? Ideal is something we make. When we believe a person is very good we think of that goodness; it surrounds that person, and our artistic and idealistic tendencies help to paint his goodness as beautifully, as well as we can. We can crown it by our artistic faculty; that is called an ideal.

The ideal of perfection is the ideal of God, and we will turn to it in our troubles or worries or fears. If we are afraid of death, yet have that ideal by our side, we feel protected. If we are disappointed in anything, still there is that ideal by our side, to reassure us; we say, 'I do not mind, I am not really disappointed; for Thou art present in my heart; I feel Thy presence; Thou hast become my ideal'. In trouble, in pain, in poverty, in difficulty, or friendless, in all these things which no one in the world can escape, there He is beside us. The older we grow, the more we feel, 'As long as I can be of use to the world, so long will the world want me. As soon as I can be of no service, of no use, then the world will get tired of me, it will not want me. The world wants that which is not myself. If I am wealthy, the world is after my wealth, not me; if I am in a high position, the world is after me because of my position, not because of me. The world goes after false things. The world is false. The only protection from it is to have that ideal of God alive and constantly present. With that ideal I can be satisfied, and have rest and peace; not only on earth but even in the hereafter I shall be in the arms of the Divine!'

No one can ever be so dear, so close, neither children, husband, wife, nor friend as that perfect Ideal. That Ideal will never fail. He will always be with us here and hereafter. We belong to Him. From Him we came; to Him we return. By feeling the presence of that Ideal always in our hearts, we feel the springing up of every kind of beauty, of every impulse, thought and imagination, of everything that comes out of ourselves or that we see all round us. We identify it all with God in the end. To the person who creates the presence of God the whole life around becomes one single vision of the Immanence of God.

The reason why the soul seeks for the God-ideal is that it is dissatisfied with all that gives only momentary satisfaction.

Hazrat Inayat Khan

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